Big Feelings

This summer has been a doozy. I honestly don’t even know where to start or how to put it into words. Our family has walked through the deep fire of tragic loss and then navigated the new waters of elementary school. 

I have wanted to stop and write about alllllll the big feelings but honestly they just felt too big to write down. Some things you only can clearly feel, but cognitive clarity seems like another mountain to climb and well, you just don’t want to.

I’m not sure I feel ready to talk about the loss quite yet. It isn’t my story to tell, but my grief is still my own. That may come a little later…

But what I feel I CAN talk about, since you’re here and all, is sending my sweet firstborn baby cherub to KINDERGARTEN.

You guys. 

I was ill-prepared. 

Ironically, I tried super hard to prepare. T’was a wash.

I cannot speak for all first timers here. But I can for sure speak for myself. I have been navigating such big feelings through this and I’m not even the one having to brave this big giant school thing.

I have worked ever since having kids. After my first maternity leave, I went back to work 3 days a week. It was a choice that both was necessary financially, as well as for my soul. I love to work. But I didn’t want to work full time while my kids were young. For the past 5 1/2 years, I have been a part time career mom. It has worked for us. When Isla was itty bitty, kindergarten (aka: full time school until for freaking ever) seemed so so far away. People always say the time flies by and before you are ready, kindergarten is here! Which is SUPER annoying to hear when you’re covered in spit up, poop, or whiny tears from your little person. But I am here to humble myself and say, “IT’S ALL TRUE AND I’M SO MAD THEY ARE ALL RIGHT.”

Because here we are. Here. We. Are.

5 year olds are thrown head long into these really big expectations and changes. We are thrilled with her teacher and school and she loves it but even still, it’s just a lot. And not just for her. It honestly changes the dynamic of the whole family. For better or worse, we are tethered together in this whole thing. Poor Houston, he didn’t sign up for this. The silver lining of sending my child to kindergarten was newfound one on one time with my baby boyfriend (who is almost 3, it’s fine. I’m fine. Everything is fine.)…but I failed to anticipate his lack of enthusiasm for not having his built in bestie around at all times. It’s super fun to hear your child cry “peas we go get Isla, I want my sistuh!” on your mommy-son date….

I have realized that even when change is good and fun and ideal, it’s still HARD. New things require a lot of mental energy as you adapt to a new environment, new people, new expectations, new routines… And even when it is a change you want or enjoy, it is still overwhelming. Big feelings come out. All of it increases your capacity and forces you to grow. But if you never walk into the new thing, you are withholding from yourself that opportunity to grow. I have so deeply desired growth over the last couple of years. And oh my gosh, God has answered that prayer…I conveniently forgot that growth is hard. And in the middle of my puddle of tears I keep reminding myself that I actually asked for this. HA.

Now don’t hear what I’m not saying. I am not saying God brings the bad. But he does use the hard. And He brings the goodness. 

A friend of mine shared one of my favorite analogies of the season recently… 

She was talking about plants. When a plant grows, it often has to get repotted into a bigger container. The new container is bigger and better and if you’re lucky, its shinier and prettier and funner. But you don’t just plop the growing plant from point A to point B. You have to break up the roots. For that plant to grow successfully into its new home, you have to get in there and mess up the entanglement a little bit. All those roots that have worked so hard to grow that plant and secure it’s health, that are all cozy and warm underground, now have to endure the painful process of being pulled apart (gently) and separated from one another in order to promise a healthy new process for the new season of a bigger pot. Without this process, growth is choked out.

Growth is hard. Even for plants. That don’t have a soul. How much harder is it for us humans to endure the dismantling of all that is comfortable, safe, convenient, or easy, for the promise of the joy set before us if we lay all of that down. If we choose the easy, we forfeit the promise of more life. 

I want to always choose the promise of more life. It has a cost, no doubt. But resisting that invitation is exceptionally more painful. His presence is in the fire. It’s in the growth. It’s also in the promised land. But you only get there through the wilderness. I want to suffer well. I want to worship through the fire.

This is clearly not all about kindergarten (hence the vague reference of loss at the beginning of this)… But watching my baby girl grow into hard things is so powerful. I’m so freaking proud of her for doing hard things. Every choice to walk into her new classroom when she doesn’t want to, and when its uncomfortable, and when there is anxiety within her, she is increasing her capacity to WIN. 

I want her to WIN. Gosh I do. And I am learning more and more that my kids succeed when they are CHALLENGED. There is nothing to win if there isn’t a fight to be won. There isn’t success if there isn’t a challenge to overcome. But holy heck, pushing her past her comfort zone to go to school when tears are involved and she wants to stay home in safety because it is just. too. Hard….is hard. I want her to feel safe and comfortable and happy and all the things that don’t shape her into a strong force to be reckoned with. 

I long to be strong and stable. To be a safe place to have space for the struggles of the people I love. I get to practice that on my kids. Not to enable them or give them an out when the going gets tough, but to empathize with them, love them, tell them I’m curse-word-level proud of them (minus the curse word unless I’m talking to a not easily offended adult) and remind them that greater is HE that is within them, than he that is in the world. 

I have a lot of feelings. These are only a few of them. The weeping and gnashing of teeth has been present in my process of all these things. My barnacle is off to big kid school and it’s just really a LOT you guys. But good news, I’m a room mom so I get to be nosey about her life.

God bless it all. First time kinder moms, UNITE. We will survive these things and so will our cherub babies. For all the seasoned moms, can you tell me if learning to blow your nose is a standard part of kindergarten curriculum because oh my gosh someone please help us over at the Rollins’ household…

Oh also, we are potty training the second cherub baby. Seemed like a good idea to toss that in the middle of seismic life change. #wisdom

So if you see a mama in a carline, or wrangling baby cherubs manifesting as wild banshees, throw up a mommy gang sign of props and recognition and maybe buy her coffee if she’s behind you in the Starbucks line.

WE OUT HERE!

I Can Do Hard Things

So back in January, I took on a fitness challenge with a group of strangers on the internet. There was about a dozen of us in this group all doing the exact same workouts everyday, checking in daily, and encouraging one another. We became each other’s friends and cheerleaders over the course of 80 days. 

The challenge, aptly named “80 Day Obsession” just wrapped up a few weeks ago. I’ve been mulling over my revelations, takeaways, and results and trying to put into words exactly what I have experienced in the process. 

I obviously have a before and after physically…and please know that sharing these pictures makes me want to crawl into a hole forevs. But I was challenged to share, number 1. And number 2, I want to do things that make me uncomfortable, even when I don’t want to do things that make me uncomfortable (which is always). Makes total sense right? Right. And you may remember it’s part of my challenge to myself for my word of the year, Out Loud, which I blogged about here. (i have like approx one million feelings about this which would make for a super extra blog so I’m going to not qualify this against all temptation to do so and just leave it right here…)

(L before, R after)

I’m down 2.5 lbs and 5.5 inches, from this challenge…about double that since last summer but I can’t bring myself to share that before picture today. Let’s just move on.

I think my biggest takeaway from this 80 day journey is the huge increase in my capacity. I have physically done things I never thought I was capable of. I am stronger than I’ve ever been. More disciplined than I’ve ever been. More self aware. More tenacious.

With every rep of every push-up, shoulder press, mule frog, burpee, or half. Turkish. getups. I have seen my walls pass behind me instead of stopping when I meet them.

While I started out with one of my goals being to see my abs for the first time (and I do!) The biggest change really is in my mindset. That became my WHY in Phase 3. I get it now. That really is the point.

I have become completely over my own bs. I’m tired of my excuses. I am completely unimpressed with myself. It’s an amazing place to find yourself. Instead of hitting a wall physically, mentally, emotionally, vocationally, that would have normally made me stop and whine and get frustrated. I now see those walls as challenges and opportunities to get stronger. I realize that just how the change happens in my body only when it burns, it also only happens in my life when I do the hard things in spite of the “burn.”

But this is where motivational quotes lose me. You know the ones… “push past the pain and ignore the voice telling you that you can’t.” I actually do agree in part. But HOW we do this is a different story. 

I am a high feeler. When I bulldoze over my feelings, shaming them for showing up and making me weak or slow or handicapped, just for the sake of getting to a destination, I have already lost. 

I am finally learning that I can’t push past my feelings on the alter of achievement. I can’t grind super hard and hustle til I reach a certain point of mythological ease and THEN enjoy the fruits of my labor. Because I trampled on my emotions back at that earlier point of contention, they are still lying back there, half dead, hoping I come back for them. They aren’t at the finish line helping me enjoy something. They are long gone. Because I ignored them when they were flagging me down, warning me of something, sharing a part of me I didn’t see. 

I have to embrace the feelings I tend to dislike. The negative ones. The ones that feel unqualified, empty, sad, overlooked, unseen, fraudulent. Feeling those is clearly unpleasant and usually means feeling lost in a sea you can’t swim out of for a little bit, no land in sight. But the actual process of feeling the unpleasant things and not escaping them, IS the means to the end. It IS the binoculars to see the shore. Feeling the weight of my emotions through transparency in Jesus gets me unstuck. It gives me perspective, not denial. I’ve never fully overcome a struggle by denying my darkness. It always comes back. Which I now see as the kindness of God. 

Processing emotions in a healthy way is paramount. Go read “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” by Peter Scazzero and then check back in. But we aren’t told to deny this stuff. Jesus FELT THINGS. He cried blood, he wept over death, he was grieved time and again. He didn’t see those feelings as junk to get rid of, but he walked through them. This used to terrify me. But I’m now seeing that processing them is all about “the joy set before me.” On the other side of the burn, is the freedom. The good stuff on the other side is better than that hard part of walking through fire. 

Lately, when a negative emotion or thought comes up, I’ve become more conditioned to acknowledge it, thank it for coming to visit me, and then slowing the tape to see why exactly it’s there and what that might mean. It is a freeing thing to acknowledge the good bad and ugly in you without shame or avoidance. It feels weird. It feels like growth.

So back to those walls. The challenges. The hard things or obstacles we encounter. Those things used to make me stop and get frustrated. Maybe over a lack of resources. Maybe over a lack of gifting. But now I see those walls as challenges, as opportunities to get stronger. And that can change my whole day. My whole life, y’all. 

I need to remember that I can knock down the walls I want to sit down in front of. I won’t knock down my feelings. The Apostle Paul took pleasure in his weaknesses, because he saw the strength that they could produce…

“Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NLT

Paul doesn’t say “when I am weak HE is strong” but “I AM STRONG” because he is sharing in the sufferings of Jesus.

Sitting down in self pity takes away my opportunity to share in the sufferings of Christ. He works in me when I do hard things. Things that challenge my weakness. And THEN I am strong. And sharing with him in the tiniest measure allows me this incredible gift of intimacy with my God. What a privilege!!!

See, Jesus did it ALL FIRST.

Talk about challenging yourself and doing hard things and growing as a result…the Bible says Jesus GREW in favor with God and man. The fact that God himself identified with us in that way is incomprehensible. Think about this… Jesus literally asked God to NOT send him to the cross. But he went willingly anyway. He saw the wall and pushed through it, but he felt the weight nonetheless.

I think it’s easy to assume you should grow into a place where hard things aren’t hard anymore and fear is never in the equation and you arrive at a level of mastery where you deserve the good stuff.

Make no mistake God wants to give us the good stuff. But do we ever get to that point of deserving? No. That’s entitlement. Staying challenged keeps us humble, hungry, and always growing into maturity.

Who is more mature than the freaking son of God??? Not me. How revelational it is to me that Jesus stayed uncomfortable all the way to the cross. He cried tears of blood and asked for a way out.

He felt all the uncomfortable feelings, brought them to his Father, saw the harvest of resurrection to come, and followed through in the darkest night of the soul. 

“For the joy set before him he endured the cross.” Hebrews 12:2

For the record, I kinda love being a strong woman. I’m in the best shape of my life. I worked hard for these muscles and I think I will keep them, thankyouverymuch. I may never post another workout selfie again before I meet my maker, but as much as I want to basically never interact with humans again after sharing this, I’m mad proud of myself. 

I can do hard things. You can too.

On Miscarriage…

You bend your ear

To hear the song of the broken hearted

The tears and doubt

Fists pounding the ground

Hold me tighter

While I thrash around

And in the moment

It almost feels like you love me more

Jesus

You are stable

When I can’t seem to hold on

You steady my weak feet

When the sadness befriends

And fear keeps me company

Come love me there

Lift up my eyes

To face all your goodness

Come love me there

Not just a skipped beat

But a heart stopped

And while I lay there

Without hope, life left hollow

You took my place

Lived my sorrow

What can I do

What can I say

To say enough or give enough praise

What would it look like

What would I sound like

Oh beautiful Christ I let go

How can it be

That I should gain

From questioning you?

Not trusting you?

When love feels like a sting in my heart

I cry out

I scream and shout

Throw words like knives that pierce your side

All while you burn for me

All while you love me so fiercely

 

Sometimes I sense the wind against my flesh, but I cannot feel it.

Sometimes the only thing that penetrates my body making its way into my soul is a profound sadness.

An ache.

An emptiness.

It threatens to seize me with its friendship. Keeping me company when joy cannot find its way in.

When love hurts too much to enjoy. 

I might know truth.

But I don’t want it.

The sound of trite religious affirmations tighten around my chest and I can’t breathe.

“God has a plan.”

“It will happen.”

“Don’t be discouraged.”

Don’t you dare rob me of my mourning! My grief makes me FEEL!

I hate the weight of sadness, but I cannot rush past it for death was meant to be grieved.

When will it leave me alone? But don’t leave me here!

When will the crushing weight lift? But still tuck me in at night.

Stay close so I can feel the life that has left me.

Grief. My solace. My illusion of a heartbeat. 

Healing, I fear, should detach me from my child.

You see my heart is forever transformed. My heart is a mother.

My ache is for the one my body couldn’t hold. Couldn’t nurture. Couldn’t know.

God, I’m so sad.

A shell of myself. I ache. I yearn.

Unexpected, like a thief in the night. Death came and snatched out life.

I feel vulnerable. Violated. Emptied. 

And also hardened. Angry. Impenetrable. 

A profound sadness.

But unlike any other sadness I don’t wish it away because it tells me that it is my only connection to what I lost. And my mother heart cannot bear to lose that connection to my child.

Miscarriage.

A mystery of sadness.

But the heavy weight is a lie of comfort.

For You, Jesus, take my burdens, bore my sin and sadness so that I may live.

That I may feel life IN you. And the life that was lost in me.

El Roi. The God who sees me.

Flood my mother heart with healing.

 

What if I let you come love me there?

 

Fear of Death and the Fear of Life

Fear is a crappy friend. It gives you the illusion of protection. Masquerading nobly as “worry,” a character trait that only “good” moms have for their kids…(chief of sinners, yours truly) or the logical and practical thought to plan ahead for the mythological future that doesn’t exist.

I have realized that when I hold onto fear, I believe it can help shield me from the blow of impending doom and tragedy. As if bracing myself in enslaving preparation can reduce the pain I could inevitably experience should my worst fears be realized.

We know, of course, that this isn’t true. Fear tells us how helpful it is only to betray us in the dark night of the soul, releasing us into our deepest pain with no safe place to land.

I’m gonna level with you, living in that space blows.

So we begin to let go. We eventually grow into freedom in Jesus, letting him hold our fears so honorably. Not condemning us for our raw humanity, but experiencing it with us with supernatural empathy. We feel seen, known…free.

Then we begin to feel strength building in our deepest parts. And invigorating flow of life pumping into our souls, readily accepting challenge and getting excited for how this growth is preparing us for God’s best promises over our lives to manifest…

Then suddenly, fear returns. Taunting us. Like the serpent to Eve, “did God REALLY say that his best will be yours?” But maybe it sounds like your own voice within you saying “God gives the biggest challenges to the strongest ones. What if all this strength is now only qualifying me for more pain, because now I’m strong enough to handle it?”

So now we aren’t just fearing death, we are also fearing life.

Yikes. I don’t want to be strong if it means my reward is devastation. The devastation I originally feared.

Remember Job? Wasn’t he offered to satan as this great example of faith and godliness for satan’s worst arrows? Does godliness qualify us for deeper pain? If so, where on earth can we hide from pain? If we shrink back and vainly attempt to protect ourselves through fear, or if we stand strong and trust the hand of our loving Father, pain still finds us.

You can’t hide from pain. You can’t hide from fear for that matter. In weakness or in strength, in sickness or in health, fear will try to undo you. Pain will try to debilitate you. Pain exists because sin does too. Fear exists because the enemy does too.

1 Peter 5:8 “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”

Way to sugar coat it, Peter…

It’s 2018. But even Benjamin Franklin knew what I feel the heaviness of when he flatly stated in 1789, “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

We look everywhere for certainty.

EV. RY. WHERE.

In government and laws. In consistent schedules. In 9 million health supplements. In personal development books. And all of these things are good. But they aren’t certain. Only Jesus is certain.

Hebrew 13:8 tells us this…

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

Thank God. Things were looking kind of grim…

But there is good news. Jesus overcame the actual worst case scenario. Not just death, but eternal death. It literally could not possibly be any worse that reality.

In John 13, Jesus was preparing his disciples for his final Passover celebration before his death and resurrection. These were heavy times…I always read these chapters in the gospels with a weight in my chest knowing what’s coming… But he washes their feet, including his betrayer’s. He was aware of his forthcoming death and yet he lived with ultimate intention toward those he loved. He exhorts them for the next few chapters, imploring them to not be troubled but to trust him, to trust God the Father, reminding them that he was the only way, the only truth, the only life. Telling them to “just believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me.” (John 14:11)

He promises the Holy Spirit, he promises those elusive “greater works”, he promises not to abandon them, to reveal himself to them. The NLT says it like this…

“I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

-John 14:27

Uhhhh…chapter after chapter of Jesus reminding the disciples of how good he is, how much he loved them, how much good he was bringing to them. These are his strong ones. These are the ones GOD HIMSELF poured into daily for years…If anyone has reason to think they are strong and mature in faith, they had more. They had the best discipler of all time walking with them in the flesh. The OG of mentors, if you will. And at the end of this masterful word of prophetic encouragement, Jesus says,

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

-John16:33

I spend so much time both consciously and unconsciously dwelling on how to avoid bad things, bad feelings, fears, the projected emotions in a hypothetical future that doesn’t exist…Literally living as if Jesus hasn’t already overcome all those things. Effectively shutting my heart off from experiencing his presence. A presence that isn’t like the vices of my flesh that grasp for comfort, never satiated, never finding enough relief…

Why do we live like that? Don’t we know? Don’t we see how good He is? Don’t we remember that He will not abandon us? Do you hear the tone in his voice calling us to just believe….He really is that good.

Fear is a distraction from His goodness. Fear and pain are NOT more powerful that his perfect love.

This Easter, wherever you find yourself…full of strength or keenly aware of your profound lack, go read John 13-16. Hear him love you. Look for his promises, his resurrection, his life. And remember that your choice to gird yourself in Him alone doesn’t attract death, it attracts his life, because you are connected to his presence. And in him there is no darkness at all… (1John 1:5)

Don’t get distracted by death. Look for the Resurrection everywhere…

“We look away from the natural realm and we fasten our gaze onto Jesus who birthed faith within us and who leads us forward into faith’s perfection. His example is this: Because his heart was focused on the joy of knowing that you would be his, he endured the agony of the cross and conquered its humiliation, and now sits exalted at the right hand of the throne of God!”

Hebrews 12:2 The Passion Translation

Living Out loud

Sharing is hard.

I don’t consider myself to be all that hard to get to know. I feel that generally, I am an open-book type of person. But this past year it has become increasingly apparent that I don’t volunteer much information. I must be prompted. I must feel like someone asks with particular desire to know something. I don’t really mind answering truthfully, but unless someone is beating down the door to my heart, I will likely keep it close to the vest.

I started this blog with a desire to unpack creativity that has been buried in the dirt of time, pain, and loss of identity. I wanted to unearth the gold I hoped was there, risky as that is, to live out a statement that popped out in conversation with a friend that I hesitate (read: am terrified) to share…

“I will follow the wild inklings of my heart with radical obedience.”

As with most life revelations, the complexities and applications unfold over time to deeper and more profound angles you didn’t see originally.

Right? Life is simple. But it is so complex.

6 months ago when I decided to start writing with intention, I didn’t know what would come of it. And I took about a 2-3 month break from posting anything here because I was processing something very weighty and life altering and being that I am apparently a “close to the vest” person, my process was very private.

I don’t regret this. But I have learned a lot from this choice.

I learned that sharing life is hard. It is complex. In a world full of over-sharing (Here’s a picture of my lunch, my abs, my perfect looking children, my 900th selfie, my dirty hair to appear to be “real,” my cool famous friends, my half naked body…blah blah blah) it can be very difficult to navigate the appropriateness of publicly sharing your life.

There is no black or white, right or wrong script for this. Not everyone has instagram, nor should everyone have instagram. Not everyone has a calling that is public, some people live off the grid. This is all neither good nor bad. It just is.

But I have come to learn that for me, there is something in me, crafted by God, that is supposed to migrate from the intimate walls of my heart, to the world I live in.

To this extent, and quite imperfectly, I need to live my life out loud.

Which brings me to this…

Behind the scenes, for several years, I have felt the pain and the ache within me to sing. I know I know, I sing for a living. But I don’t. I teach others how to sing for a living. For many reasons which don’t need airtime, I haven’t been singing myself in quite a long time.

Sure a little gig here and there, but without intention. Without cultivation. Without focus.

With the dawn of the new year, I have made the biggest shift in my professional and personal world that I have ever made, and I have stepped away from my post as a vocal coach (for now) and into the big white expanse of the unknown of pursuing music, for myself, again.

If you know much of my story, you know I moved to NYC at the ripe old age of 21 to pursue a career as an artist. A broke singer-songwriter, with big dreams, zero industry knowledge, and 2 (barely) friends. I was single. Fresh out of college. Risk meant nothing. The stakes were low. The level of adventure was high.

After fumbling around in NYC, writing some songs, recording one project, playing a few gigs that only my friends came to see (thanks friends), I began just simply living my life, a life I really loved, in the freaking greatest city on earth.

I had a family in my community and church, I was living out deep unconscious desires leading worship there, and then I met my husband. I somewhat stumbled, dumbfounded, into teaching voice. One thing led to another and I met and became certified under the greatest vocal coach in the world, Brett Manning.

I began to teach with intention. The first job I ever had that required me to commit and dive deep and long term into something I loved. In 2009, I locked into a career I would have never anticipated and pushed the gas pedal down hard for nearly 10 years.

It has been a dream come true. I have accomplished much.

So it was a big surprise to learn that there were other dreams in me, just as significant, that needed not just a little breathing room, but they needed full run of the house. They never went away actually. But they were placed in the back of the closet like a pair of shoes you loved but forgot you had til one day when you were cleaning everything out and there they were. Dusty but ready to be worn. Ok arguably, a thin analogy.

I have been slightly (super duper) terrified to share this. Because if you remember, sharing is hard. I have needed to think a lot about WHY sharing is so hard before I could, well, share.

There’s the fear of rejection or embarrassment. There is the fear of failure. There’s just the one billion questions to answer. There is the assumption that probably no one cares (re: oversharing ab pics and selfies). There is the fear of looking self-indulgent. There’s the logic demon that says “this is impractical! Irresponsible!” Because hello? Why would I stop doing something I’m good at and make money doing? And let’s not forget one of the biggest ones, the fear of being seen.

There’s not a strong logical case for my life choices right now except this…

I want to LIVE. I do not want to merely EXIST.

And I want my kids to see this part of me.

I want to write songs. I want to sing them. I want to write books. I want to sell them.

All of those things require me to live out loud. To be held accountable by public display, to the desires within me. To steward these things. To share them.

Don’t you love it when someone shares something personal that resonates with you and inspires you? Maybe it’s a song, a story, a picture, a dance. Hey, maybe it is an ab pic. Whatever man.

I’ve been pondering my Word of the Year for months now. Last year, it took me until September to figure out what it was for 2017. You know what it was?

SHIFT.

Ha. I didn’t know then, but I was shifting into this. Which, I *think* (I reserve the right to change this cause it’s my word and not the court of law) is…

OUT LOUD.

I want to sing. Out loud.

I want to write. Out loud.

I want to share. Out loud.

Oh, and know that I will still teach. It’s in my core. I adore it. But the application may look a little different. And that’s ok.

You may be reading this thinking “I knew literally none of this whatsoever before reading this….you sing? You teach? You lived in nyc? You exist?” And that’s cool. Evidence I have work to do on my Word of the Year.

This shift is deeply personal. It came through a lot of wrestling, fighting, praying, crying…all the hard “ing”s. I recognize that much if not all of this actually matters to hardly anyone besides myself. Cause this life, this decision, is decidedly mine. Not anyone else’s.

But I share because not only am I wanting to live out loud, but because maybe it challenges you to make a big change. Take a risk. Challenge your fears and do something really hard.

And it’s fun to know people a little bit below the surface, right?

So here’s my stuff. Share some of yours…

The Poetry Cannons – Threshold

I’ve been going through old journals reading poetry and prose I used to regularly write in between chronicled streams of consciousness. It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted a regular blog due to my kids getting sick and then getting me sick. I have a post almost finished but needs more work, so I decided to create a new segment in this blog sharing new and old poetry…Some might be song lyrics, some might be creative prose and free writing.

This first entry felt appropriate for how I’ve felt as of late in my own process of reconnecting with my heart. It’s short, and in the spirit of the abstract, may not make total sense to all. But it doesn’t have to.

Here you go. Unedited. Unfiltered. Enjoy…

 

February 3, 2010
***************

Been forever since we’ve had a first
We’re so well versed
In familiar breaking

Won’t resign myself in this curse
It’s not a first-
Time rude awakening

Cause it’s this fire overhead
Leading me to water and bread

I’ll make circles till I’m broken
Wish I’d listened when you’d spoken

Hot sand falls through my fingers
Feels like millions of dried up souls
Will you speak to these dry bones?
Or take a swing at one of these stones?

Cause I’ll make circles till I’m broken
Wish I’d listened when you’d spoken

Can’t just sit and wait for a spring
To jump out in my desert and sing

And I won’t just wait for winter to pass
before living in life and my feet in green grass

Someone will always whisper-
It’s over. You’re old.
Just as you’re blindly standing on your threshold…

A Dirty Car And An Endless God

I recently willed myself into finally deep cleaning the inside of my car. This is a vulnerable thing to share. You may know I have two small children and I chauffeur them around town daily.

I don’t know if you have ever ridden in a car with little people before, but there is a chemical reaction between little people and vehicles that creates sudden spontaneous starvation within them. The very moment they hear the *click* of their seatbelt, they begin issuing the sound of their people…

“Mommy, can I have a snack”

What? You just ate (read: rejected) a four course meal, how are you hungry? You know what, it’s fine, yes, Mary Poppins has plenty of snacks in her magical vending machine purse, here you go.

Snacks are so messy. And sticky. And crumbly. And these snacks had been dwelling in my car for an embarrassingly long time. But my parents were coming to visit and I literally could not bear allowing my dad to see how far I had fallen. So I sweaticated my soul away one horribly hot afternoon and cleaned that sucker out.

Guys it was worse that I realized. I knew it was bad. But I felt undeserving of friends after cleaning it out. So that’s not really healthy.

It got me thinking about my soul, as smashed raisins and questionable fruit spreads often do.

Any time I deep clean something I’m looking extra close at the object at hand. Deeper inspection always reveals that there’s more dirt hiding there than you realized. And if you have some OCD tendencies like me, you begin violently cleaning and you get in the zone and you do not come out of the zone until you are finished 19 hours later. Because it will always take longer than you anticipated.

Lately, I’ve had some extra time on my hands, which has felt super weird, and I’ve been doing some deep cleaning in my inner world. I knew there was some stuff there I needed to unpack and examine but what I’m finding there is more than I bargained for.

But I’m not here to tell you how horrible and dirty my soul is and how depressing it was to find, upon further inspection, that it’s actually quite worse than I thought. Thank God right? What a depressing blog.

What I realized was in my 2 year quest for more space and less chaos, when I got aforementioned space, I was terrified. And then I was confused? Why is space so scary, I thought? So I procrastinated looking into my heart. God only knows what’s in there. :-/ I hesitated to attempt connecting to the stuff under the surface, the stuff that actually defines who I am. Who God made me to be.

How many of us have wished for the time to process stuff? To follow that creative unction? To sit quietly before the Lord and listen? Then, BAM. You get what you asked for. And you piddle it away scrolling through Instagram or folding laundry. Anyone? Bueller? Ok, so even if it’s just me… I’ve started asking, WHY am I putting off the things I thought I wanted? Why do I have anxiety around just starting to go there?

Here was a big part of my answer… I was scared of finally getting to open up my creativity and finding jack crap inside. I am currently working through this fear of seeing my truest self, because what if I go where I’m hoping is that well of profound deep creativity there’s just stale recycled garbage I have to deal with? What then?

That’s a buzzkill.

But knowledge is power. And self awareness is progress.

Full disclosure…This whole blogging thing is an experiment in hope. I’ve wanted to write for a long time. But then I would find myself on that precipice of my heart, totally afraid to peel back the surface and find there’s really not anything great in there after all. And anyway, life would get busy and I’d have a much more socially acceptable excuse to put it off.

There’s some good news here. And it has to do with my dirty car.

I started getting a little brave. Mostly because where I was became actually unbearable. And I peeked in. God, in his extreme kindness, made me feel safe enough to go there. And I wasn’t full on blown away with my brilliance guys. But I saw value. I saw identity. And I really just wanted to get to know myself. So I made friends with my insides and realized there was some really good stuff there. And then, upon further inspection, I saw some more good stuff in there. And I kept going, sorting through what I saw. Picking up one thing uncovered something else.

It kept going and going and is still going. When I wrote about finding gaps in my narrative I realized I had something to say about widening the space inside to make room for the answers.

It’s why they say “creativity begets creativity.” In part because the discipline creates growth and you just get better at it. But also because the things you find, the creative stones you stop to pick up and examine, expose the earth beneath it…new earth to examine and sort through. New songs to write. New books to pen. New paintings to paint… One thing just leads to another.

But I didn’t always believe this would be the case. I didn’t really think that under one stone there would be anything WORTH examining. Much less examining and showing the rest of the world.

“Hey everyone, come check out this brown lump of dirt.”

Just go ahead, hand me all the accolades for my brilliance.

But I was looking at a very carnal, finite space contained by my own human limitations.

Creativity is endless because God is eternal. I am not bound by my humanity unless I agree with that limitation. It’s less about my storehouse for creative living, even though I have my own personal gems in there, and so do you. It’s so much more about God’s endless storehouse. When I pick up that stone and discover more underneath, it’s good. Because God is good. If I agree with my beloved position in Christ, I get to see all the treasures of God. It stands to reason that God desires to show his beauty to the world, and since he decided to do that through us, why would he limit that expression? Why would he hide it from us?

Is it possible that if I cannot access that “muse” it’s because I have not agreed with my worthiness to receive it? Have I instead agreed with the lie that I am limited, not good enough at my craft, too circumstantially hamstrung to create?

Have I become a victim of my own life?

If God is good, and good to me, and I’ll never reach the ends of my revelation of him, then there really is no justifiable reason to NOT live a life that thrives off of displaying that glory. It is my inheritance. It is my calling. It is my identity.

But if I resist this identification through questions, fear, insecurity, I disqualifiy myself to receive the free gifts of not only His creativity expressed in me, but also his very presence, all because I’m agreeing with an inferior identity.

So I don’t want to do that anymore. That’s why I’m here. Externally processing with you all, for better or worse. Making soul excavation a permanent fixture in my life. Like coffee.

On Building Capacity

About a 2 years ago, I began sensing an ever increasing feeling of overwhelm. It started small and inconsequential. But it continued to build. It would come in the middle of the day, enjoying a conversation, a social media post, teaching a voice lesson, really anywhere. And it felt like an assault. It was the sharp sting of awareness of how far away I felt from what I wanted.

Everything felt uphill.

Achieving professional success the way I wanted it. climb up

Finding peace and organization in my home. climb up 

Training my kids in righteousness. climb up

Connecting to the creativity in me. climb up

Engaging with Jesus in a much deeper way. climb up so so far

The mountain I felt forced to scale was massive, insurmountable. And yet I didn’t see any other way. I began to speak this feeling out loud saying things like “I think I’m barely surviving life, not thriving.” Or “I’m just barely treading water.” And the most depressing “I can feel myself shutting down.”

These are not fun feelings. Nor are they easy to share with the world. But I started getting nervous so I started talking. I talked to my husband, my friends, my parents, my boss, and to my counselor. I dove deep into Heartsync counseling and I felt like I had finally found a trajectory to freedom. (and I have, but that’s honestly a whole other blog)

Here’s what surfaced…

Overwhelm comes from being too crowded. We use that term to describe when things in life just feel like too much. We don’t use that word to describe boredom. Anything can be too much, even if it’s too much of nothing at all.

But I was feeling crowded. After becoming a mom to two wonderful children, I, like many moms, began to let the urgent displace the important. Because poopy diapers don’t change themselves you guys. I love meeting the needs of my family. I’m a textbook 2 (the Helper) on the enneagram so duh. And many of the parts of my life looked really good on paper. But I was suffocating under the pressure of it all. I had zero capacity to move forward in my life. The thought of my deepest dreams coming to the surface made me want to run away or go to bed for a long time because I was just. too. tired.

I hated the exhortations to hustle more, dig deep, or be more disciplined. Those words felt like punishment, failure, and frustration. The answer wasn’t to do more. Nor was it exactly to do less. (you can’t quit your family, and no one should be making that a choice in the matter)

I had no margin. No capacity. I was always tapped out, no room for more.

The answer was to make space. To do that I had to start in my spirit. On the outside, every hour of my day felt already accounted for. Someone else already seemed to have lay claim of my time, whether that be soccer practice, or teaching, or making dinner for all the living creatures of my home. I think this is where many of us pump the brakes, throw up our proverbial hands in frustration and say “I DON’T HAVE TIME!”

And we don’t. It’s true. No one really has tons of spare time. Even when I was single, childless, and in college, I somehow managed to go full speed, constantly busy, all the time. Now my husband I and I look back on marriage before kids like “Seriously, what did we even do all those years?”

But I digress.

The point is, we can’t start on the outside. Lest we all despair and quit life. The starting point is internal. I even discovered I can’t start in my soul. Pastor Bill Johnson said in a message I was listening to recently, “who ever goes deep introspective, looking at your life and comes out encouraged?” HA. When we go deep into emo territory, we often come out heavy and despondent, even when life IS good. Feelings are just weighty. It can be difficult to make space here because moving feelings around feels like trying to push water out of the way with your hands. No matter how hard you push, that water just rushes right back into the voided space you made.

So what then? We have to go to the OG of our makeup…our spirit. The crazy thing is, the most real part of ourselves often feels like the most mystical and least tangible. How do you make space in the unseen? How do you build capacity without a tangible container to measure?

This may seem off topic but hang with me here.

Tony Robbins says…

“Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.”

This has become a reality in my life the last 3 months. The trajectory of my life wasn’t looking too promising if it meant hanging on to all of this overwhelm. I had to get off the crazy cycle. To be clear, this was terrifying. I didn’t particularly want to get off the crazy cycle because even though it was killing me, at least I knew what to expect. What happens when I get off? What happens when I suddenly have, well, too much space?

I started in the area I felt I could control the most. My body. I started waking up at the crack of dawn and working out 6 days a week. Which listen, if you know me at all, you realize this is quite miraculous. I didn’t really need to shed pounds of fat, but I needed to shed pounds of disqualification. But, good news, I can do hard things. And now I have fancy lines on my quads to prove it to you.

This opened some much needed strength of my mind to lean into the real chaos I felt within. But wait, I thought we needed to start on the inside not the outside?

To paraphrase Pastor Bill Johnson again…

Sometimes you have to experience things in the natural that convinces you of what God is like, so that when you start seeing the REAL application in spiritual things, and those things get opposed, you have confidence because you’ve seen His nature displayed in the natural.

This is why Jesus spoke in parables, often using tangible illustrations like money or resources, to teach principles of the Kingdom of Heaven. It’s literally the power of a good analogy. Anyone who has ever taken a voice lesson with me knows my deep love of analogies. They help us to unlock our spirits.

For me, working out was just one area I knew needed attention. But I didn’t realize that seeing the transformation of my body was my natural proof of how God can transform my soul, and make space in my spirit for the capacity to live free, not in overwhelm.

How kind of God to be willing to meet me in my shallow natural state to draw me into his  deep endless Spirit. He wasn’t waiting there in the deep untouchable spirit realm stubbornly waiting for me to just “get it.” He moved toward me.

There is still so much in process for me right now. So many pieces I’m fumbling over, searching for how to connect one point of revelation to another point of confusion. But as I see him use my pinnacle of frustration to point to who he is and his nature, I realize that while I can’t connect all the dots, it doesn’t even matter, because I feel his friendship. And I begin to understand the verse that says…

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” -Phil 4:7 (italics mine)

Peace that actually comes without answers. Without clarity. Without capacity. But it comes. And when it settles on me, I can let some of these things go from my death grip of control and risk stepping off the crazy cycle to just see what happens.

My capacity is growing. I can feel it. There’s more to this story. I’ll keep coming back here to sort through it…

The Gaps In Our Narrative

A few nights ago, we decided to take a family walk after bathtime. The weather was nice and we needed a break from the routine. As I was standing behind my daughter, combing her wet hair in front of the bathroom mirror, we were discussing the toys she wished to take on our walk. These are very important matters to 4 year olds. Unfortunately, my kids had been fighting over one particular toy that she was requesting to bring.

Listen. These two had been EXTRA about this toy. What toy? A non functional princess “cd player” that they kept perpetually open pretending it was a computer they needed to work on. My almost 2 year old has shouted the phrase “My Pooter!!!” louder and more frequently that I care to think about.

By the time Isla had requested this as her one toy on her walk, I was ready to throw said “Pooter” into the “trash receptacle.” I gently told her that we were not going to take the toy of great contention on our family stroll so as not to cause the parents to lose all of their faculties.

My 4 year old did not take this well. In fact, her exact words, through full blown SOBS were “THIS IS A DISASTER!!!”

I had to duck behind her as I brushed her hair to hide my face which was laughing uncontrollably at her genetically induced drama. She gets it from me.  It was hilarious. She meant it so fiercely though. So sad. I tried to empathize with her sadness. I attempted to explain my reasons but she wasn’t having it. All she knew was that I was creating a disaster for her life in that moment.

She had no capacity to understand my reasons. I mean, she’s 4. Sometimes the answer is really just to let her feel the fullness of her feelings rather than explain them away with logic. Please read that again. That was a parental epiphany for me.

What she didn’t have space to understand was the fact that there was no way she and her brother were going to be able to share effectively on our walk. They were too tired and quite honestly, too selfish to play nice and instagramably with this thing. She didn’t know that I was actually going to confiscate said toy and hide it for days to come as an object lesson for the two of them. She didn’t know that mommy and daddy needed to be able to have a pleasant adult conversation while pushing them along. She didn’t know that the toy she wanted wasn’t required to have a good time.

She only knew that in that moment, she couldn’t have what she wanted. She wanted me to acquiesce to her desires (all day err day, right parents?) She knew that this was technically her toy, and I wasn’t letting her play with something I had given her.

But she had gaps in her narrative.

I think the moments when our expectations and reality do not agree, we have the tendency to move directly into problem solving mode. Why do I not have what I want? Because our ultimate objective is usually to GET what we want, this is the natural instinct so as to find understanding and solutions. It’s a coping mechanism.

But most often, we don’t have all the missing pieces to the story at our disposal. We don’t know someone else’s “why.” We are unaware of underlying factors. In short, we don’t know what we don’t know. So we start filling in the gaps in our narrative with the explanations we can come up with through our interpretation of things.

This is incredibly dangerous. We are literally telling ourselves lies. These lies can wrongfully blame us or others. They cause us to question the motives of God’s heart for us. They build up walls around us to protect our hearts from pain and trauma.

It’s unfortunately easier to treat confusion like a game of MadLibs than to live in the tension of the unknown.

This happened to me recently. It really only took one conversation for me to realize what was true and why I went and took a deep dive into fear. I had so many gaps in my narrative I was filling with what I could see and interpret of other people’s actions.

It was honestly freeing to realize this because the truth was better than my narrative. And even though there weren’t complete answers to concerns, I was much happier living in the tension of the unknown than the disappointment of my version of a story.

Here’s one more little zinger…Sometimes we don’t have the capacity to hold the real story. Just like my daughter didn’t have the capacity to process adult logic, we often don’t have the capacity to process other people’s answers when we get them.

Maybe we aren’t letting ourselves see from their perspectives. Maybe we are too self involved to have space for someone else’s pain. Maybe we are legit immature. Maybe the truth is so good we might reject it as a lie because of our past experiences with disappointment.

Without capacity to hold truth, we will live in deceit. Even when our side of the story is pretty convincingly solid, that feeling of offense at others doesn’t equate being right. That’s actually a red flag signaling the gaps in our narrative.

WATCH OUT FOR THE GAPS, GUYS.

So then what? It has to do with increasing our capacity. The margin or space we make for truth. The thoughts I have on this are involved. Which makes me think there is a second or even third blog coming on this. What are your thoughts on this? Have you experienced this yourself?

I’m like, really busy.

There is a CrossFit gym right next to my Target. On the outside of the window of the gym there is a sign that reads, “Someone in here is busier than you are.”

Is that so, CrossFit? Now, while I have nothing against CrossFit, I’m gonna level with you guys, this sign makes me want to walk inside and punch someone in the throat. It’s arguable that this is the point, that they want to antagonize me, a non-CrossFitter, into some enraged suburban mom who won’t be proven wrong, and one day I’ll get so mad that I’ll sign up for a CrossFit class to just prove my point. But I’ll really just be proving theirs.

Motivation of such signage aside, I really do get irritated by the sentiment. Maybe they are right. Maybe someone else in there IS busier than I am and they want me to stop using the excuse that I’m too busy to workout. But I’m like, “hey, back off bruh, you don’t know my life.”

Because, let’s be honest, until you are standing over a hot stove, sweating, while cooking food for one little person and pumping breast milk out of your boobs with a ridiculous hands free bra attachment for the other little person, 3+ days unshowered, with 3 year old pee pee dried on the back of your thighs and infant spit up in between your boobs, all while replying to work emails on your phone, then I’m sorry, don’t talk to me about busy. I will chuck these boiling green peas at you, which is probably more productive than offering them to my kid as “food.”

The main reason that sign bothers me is that it makes me want to type all that crap out anyway. Like we need more reasons to show off our busyness to everyone. Let’s just collectively stop ok? We are all busy. Too busy. Some of us are busy with babies and toddlers and little leagues. Some of us are busy with jobs and deadlines and clients. Some of us are busy with homework. Every once in a while, someone is “busy” with traveling a lot and mysteriously manages to pay their bills. Whatever.

The point is, busyness isn’t a competition. It’s an unhealthy addiction. I’ve for years been too busy to blog. Finally one day I realized, I am more busy now than ever with two kids and a job and this season won’t be ending anytime soon so I should just start now. So here we are.

I really don’t know what this blog is going to look like in 1 year. It might have sketchy cobwebs all over it because in a few days I’ll be like “LOL I can’t do this I’m too busy.”  It may be making me 6 figures of income. #prayersup

Maybe it will just be a space where I type out all the things in my head to see if anyone cares. But I will try to make it a thing. It’s in my heart. And in all honesty, I’m desperately needing to lean into that more these days…

Since this is Blog Numero Uno*….I’d really like your feedback. What would you like me to write about? I like writing about my family, my work, worship…But give me specifics. Would you read it? This is probably breaking blog rules but since I’m ignorant to that anyway, I don’t really care. Let me know your thoughts.

 

*not technically uno. it’s technically dos. and I technically wrote this a year ago and never posted it. cheers to all the irony guys.